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Even before the advent of the internet and smartphones, there was evidence that business books could be bought but then sat on a shelf and were never read and only a small proportion of them were ever finished. In today’s busy world that is even more the case. Add to that the feeling that most business books could be boiled down to a very good magazine article and it made sense for me to think about doing some brief “smartphone friendly” books reviews. Short, but just long enough to give the reader the flavour of what was being covered, so that they could make their mind up whether they should buy and see if they can get to the end of it…

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits: What You Must Do to Increase the Value of Your Fast-Growth Firm by Verne Harnish

What made me read this? I was talking to Laurence Ainsworth about “High Growth companies” and he was saying that he didn’t think there were many books on this topic, but this was one of them. (Laurence is now writing his own book incidentally). When I tracked it down the first thing that I noticed was that it was published in 2002 – quite ancient really – in the fast moving world, what could I possibly learn from a book so old? Quite a lot as it happens…

Best Quote “You don’t have a real strategy if it doesn’t pass these two tests: that what you’re planning to do really matters to your existing and potential customers; and second, it differentiates you from your competition.”

What’s the Big Idea? Rockefeller had only one underlying strategy to win the oil game and that was to get an advantage in transportation costs. This explained his interests in the railroad and his move to manufacturing his own barrels which were lighter than his competitors. This simple long term goal was consistent over the years. Businesses who aim to grow quickly should define their long term vision, which might be 10 to 25 years out and then plan for the next couple of quarters only. Anything in the “middle” is gone. Microsoft had their own long term vision of getting a PC on everyone desk, which they have now needed to revise.

Key learning 1 Priorities – once you have your No 1 priority there should be no more than 4 other priorities for the year and quarter. Everyone should then have a handful of priorities that feed into these.

Key learning 2 Data – do you have enough on a daily and weekly basis to see how the business is running and what the market is demanding? Does everyone have one key metric which determines how they are performing?

Key learning 3 Rhythm – are there effective weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meetings to keep everyone accountable and are they well run? Unless staff are “mocking” you, you’re not repeating yourself enough

To explore these ideas at a deeper level, you can get your own copy of this book here.

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